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Competition: Commission Sues Cartel Participants for Damages
In the middle of its consultation on civil damages actions for breach of the EC antitrust rules, the European Commission has decided to set a good example by filing cases with the Tribunal de Commerce in Brussels against four companies, who were fined a total of EUR 992 million in February 2007 for having operated cartels for the installation and maintenance of lifts and escalators in several EU Member States. The Commission is now claiming damages against these companies in respect of lift installations in its own buildings and those of other EU institutions, both in Brussels and Luxembourg. The Commission has given assurances that it will not have privileged access to the file it used to investigate the case. The Commission will be represented by a private law firm who will only have access to the published version of the 2007 Decision, as would any other plaintiff.
Environment: “Polluter Pays” Principle Applied by ECJ
In an action brought by the municipality of Mesquer under the European Union's Waste Directive for the pollution caused by the oil tanker Erika, which sank off the coast of Brittany in 1999, the French Supreme Court referred certain questions of EU law to the European Court of Justice (ECJ). The ECJ considered that, pursuant to the Waste Directive, the heavy fuel oil carried by the ship did not constitute “waste” until it was mixed with water and sediment and washed up on the coast. The ECJ also observed that the shipowner may be regarded as having produced the waste and is therefore responsible for paying for the clean up. However, the ECJ also held that the French national court may, in the light of factors which it alone is in a position to assess, consider that the seller of the oil and/or the charterer of the ship carrying it produced the waste if they failed to take measures to ensure that the ship was safe.
Institutions: Commission Opens Lobby Register
On 23 June 2008 the European Commission launched its controversial online register of interest representatives. All interested representatives engaged in influencing the policy formulation and decision making processes of the European institutions are invited to register. The register aims to enhance transparency in relations between lobbies and the Commission. Registrants, including law firms, will be asked to disclose information as to their identity, their objectives and missions and the policy areas they are particularly interested in. The disclosure of financial information is also required, to ensure that the driving forces behind a lobbying effort are transparent. This has received criticism from law firms, as the disclosure of such information might mean revealing confidential data regarding their clients. The register is multilingual, publicly accessible online and fully searchable.
Competition: Aluminium Fluoride Cartel Fined EUR 4.97 Million
The European Commission has fined five aluminium fluoride producers EUR 4.97 million for colluding to fix prices and divide markets. The sixth participant of the cartel received full immunity from the fines as it was the first company to provide information about the unlawful activities. According to the Commission's decision, the cartel members met on 12 July 2000 in Milan to agree target price increases for various regions of the world including Europe until 31 December 2000. In setting the fines, the Commission took into account the short duration of the infringement, the relatively low level of turnover in the aluminium fluoride market and the fact that the companies operated on a worldwide market. In its calculation of the fines, the Commission used for the first time the sales for the entire geographic area covered by the cartel, irrespective of their actual sales in the European Economic Area.
Competition: Commission Dawn Raids Consumer Detergents Companies
The European Commission has confirmed that officials have carried out unannounced inspections at the European premises of several producers of consumer detergents, such as washing machine and dishwasher detergents and laundry softeners. The Commission believes that the companies concerned may have violated EC Treaty rules on restrictive business practices prohibiting price fixing. However, the fact that the Commission carried out these inspections does not mean that the companies are necessarily guilty of anti-competitive behaviour, nor does it prejudge the outcome of the investigation.
State Aid: Commission Decision on Post September 11 Aid to Olympic Partially Annulled
The Court of First Instance (CFI) has partially annulled a Commission Decision issued in 2006, whereby a part of the aid granted from the Greek State to Olympic, the Greek national carrier, following the events of September 11, was illegal. Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, the Commission issued a Communication, authorising the grant of aid to air carriers for compensating losses incurred by the closure of North American airspace for several days and the extra cost of insurance. Subsequently, the Greek State granted to Olympic an aid amounting to approximately EUR 5 million. The Commission found, however, that a part of the aid was not justified. On appeal, the CFI concluded that the Commission should have authorised a greater part of the aid and accordingly partly annulled the Commission’s Decision.
Air Transport: Commission Launches Air Traffic Proposals
On 25 June 2008 the European Commission adopted a second set of proposals for a Single European Sky (SES II), aiming to further improve safety, cut costs and reduce delays. The SES II proposals are based on four pillars: i) updates to existing legislation from 2004; ii) the Single European Sky Air Traffic Management (SESAR ATM) Research Master Plan or “technological pillar”; iii) the “safety pillar”; and iv) an airport capacity action plan. The new proposals, which place environmental issues at the core of the Single European Sky, should lead to lower fuel consumption. This means airlines could save up to 16 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per year and cut their annual cost by between two and three million euros. Furthermore, the reform of the European air traffic management system will be key to managing the doubling of traffic expected by 2020.
Internal Market: Making Procurement More SME-Friendly
The European Commission has published guidelines with practical examples to assist state and public authorities to make their public procurement rules more friendly to small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). The initiative is designed to facilitate access by SMEs to a market valued at EUR 1.8 trillion in 2006. An external study had identified that changes were needed in the “procuring culture” rather than to the existing legislation. This led to the development of a Code of Best Practices that proposes solutions to the main difficulties encountered by SMEs with regard to contracting with state bodies. The solutions include overcoming difficulties in relation to the size of contracts, setting proportionate qualification and financial levels, giving sufficient time to draw up tenders and ensuring that payments are made on time.
NEXT WEEK’S EVENTS
Monday 30 June – Friday 4 July 2008
No Council meetings scheduled for next week.
COURT OF JUSTICE
Environment and consumers
C-215/06 Commission v Ireland
Law governing the institutions
Joined Cases C-39/05 P, C-52/05 P Sweden v Council and Others
Joined Cases C-341/06 P, C-342/06 P Chronopost v UFEX and Others
C-113/07 P Selex Sistemi Integrati v Commission and Eurocontrol
Freedom of establishment
C-48/07 Les Vergers du Vieux Tauves
COURT OF FIRST INSTANCE
T-37/04 Região autónoma dos Açores v Council
T-328/05 Apple Computer v OHMI - TKS-Teknosoft (QUARTZ)
T-186/07 Ashoka v OHMI (DREAM IT, DO IT!)
T-340/06 Stradivarius España v OHMI - Ricci (Stradivari 1715)
T-211/07 AWWW v FEACVT
T-266/02 Deutsche Post v Commission